“It’s hard enough to write a good drama, it’s much harder to write a good comedy, and it’s hardest of all to write a drama with comedy. Which is what life is.” (Jack Lemmon)
A lot of ink has been spilled covering the lives of history’s most influential figures, but how much of the forest is lost for the trees? In Charles River Editors’ American Legends series, listeners can get caught up to speed on the lives of America’s most important men and women in the time it takes to finish a commute, while learning interesting facts long forgotten or never known.
The great film director Billy Wilder once noted of Jack Lemmon that Lemmon “was my everyman”, and Lemmon did indeed represent a great everyman to American audiences during the latter half of the 20th century. For rich, poor, and working class audiences alike, Lemmon was an accessible leading male, someone certainly less stately than Cary Grant or Laurence Olivier and seemingly more approachable even than archetypal leading men such as Jimmy Stewart or Henry Fonda. Viewers may not have known Lemmon on a personal level, yet his easygoing demeanor made it easy for the American public to feel as if they knew Lemmon. His wide appeal is summarized nicely by Richard T. Stanley, who noted that he “Had the personality and versatile talent to star in any era.” Lemmon became intimately associated with other famous figures of Hollywood, including director Billy Wilder and actor Walter Matthau.
If Lemmon’s persona was that of the everyman, the actual narrative of his life tells a somewhat different story.